While many fleet and maintenance managers are still getting used to the idea of a Preventive Maintenance Program (PMP), cutting-edge technology is helping to align Predictive Maintenance strategies with PMPs to offer an even more powerful approach to fleet maintenance. Predictive analytics is meant as an extension of preventive maintenance rather than a replacement.
Where is Preventive Maintenance headed? PMPs have been helping the industry’s largest fleets optimize maintenance routines for more than a decade. As the technology that makes it manageable becomes more affordable, small- and mid-sized fleets are following suit. Now technology is allowing fleets to use predictive maintenance to reduce issues between scheduled PMP maintenance.
Maybe you’ve had your fleet on a PMP for a while now and you’ve seen major improvements but still have the occasional emergency repair issue that causes a disruption in your service. Maybe you’re just warming to the idea of a PMP for your fleet and you’re thinking that you don’t need to hear about the next big thing before you’ve even caught up with the last big thing. Either way, it’s never too soon to think about how analytics can add a layer of protection for your fleet.
Moving Your Fleet Beyond Preventive Maintenance
Anyone who has transitioned a fleet from a reactive maintenance strategy to a PMP will tell you that it takes some work. It takes patience and planning to find the right solution for your fleet and lay the foundations of a smooth transition. It takes persistence to get staff to buy-in to the shift and more patience to let everyone and everything settle into the new way of doing things. Even when everything goes smoothly, it can take several months to start seeing real benefits.
Transitioning to a PMP is worth the work because once you start seeing benefits you know that you’ll continue to see them each month, each quarter, each year. As long as you stay on your plan and make tweaks to improve it, the results will only get better. Once you have your PMP running like a well-oiled machine, you’ll see increases in uptime and efficiency that translate to improvements in your fleet’s bottom line.
Predictive maintenance isn’t something that requires you to give up on your PMP and make another big change. One way to look at predictive maintenance is by thinking that you’re allowing the units in your fleet to contribute to the new work that your drivers and maintenance technicians are doing. With more technology in the trucks and better software for making information from each unit manageable and actionable, predictive maintenance is just a way of letting your trucks get onboard with preventive maintenance by giving them a voice in the process.
If you’re already taking advantage of the benefits that a PMP brings to your fleet’s reliability, efficiency, and profitability—there’s no good reason to pass up the additional benefits of predictive analytics. If you haven’t taken the leap from run-to-failure maintenance into the 21st century, you can easily fold predictive analytics into your PMP planning to get the most out of the move.
Preventive Maintenance Without Predictive Analytics
Preventive maintenance is all about establishing a routine that works for your fleet. To optimize a PMP you need to identify the right number of miles, hours, or calendar days between routine inspections. You build a checklist that covers all of the parts and systems on your units that need to be inspected to prevent breakdowns or unscheduled emergency maintenance.
Even a thorough PMP can’t prevent every breakdown or unscheduled maintenance event. Sometimes things get missed during an inspection. Other times defects cause parts to fail earlier than anticipated. There will always be times when events out on the road lead to an unforeseeable repair.
Without predictive analytics—your drivers, maintenance technicians, and other members of your staff are in the dark when it comes to anything outside the scope or schedule of your PMP until it’s too late. If your driver sees a dashboard warning light and notes it on a DVIR, a work order gets generated but you’re forced to choose between keeping a truck off the road or letting it make a run with a potential issue.
What if your entire maintenance operation had known about that potential issue before the driver even started his or her pre-trip inspection? Predictive analytics goes beyond making an announcement. In many cases, it can let your maintenance staff know what the problem is, how long the truck can run before maintenance is required, and what parts they will need to have on hand when the truck comes in.
Preventive Maintenance with Predictive Analytics
The Internet-of-Things (IOT) makes it possible for the tools and machines that we use in our everyday lives to communicate with each other without requiring us to do any additional work. What that means for the trucking industry is that all of the units in a fleet can communicate directly with the fleet maintenance software to make sure that issues get addressed between regularly scheduled inspections.
Every modern truck has a system called the “common area network” or “CAN lines” that transmit codes related to diagnostic issues. These codes are funneled to the unit’s electronic control unit (ECU). If your fleet uses predictive analytics software as an element of your PMP, the ECU can communicate these issues directly to your maintenance software. At that point, a work order can be generated, shop time can be scheduled, and your parts room’s inventory can be checked for the necessary parts.
Why not let the units in your fleet speak up when they know before anyone else in the operation that they are going to need some TLC?
Of course, streamlining the process of taking action on an immediate issue is only part of what you get from predictive analytics. If you use it to gather data about your fleet, over time you will get a much more detailed understanding of what each unit in your fleet will need throughout its life-cycle. This longitudinal view of maintenance costs can not only reduce downtime and increase efficiency but it can improve your total cost of ownership as well.
Is Predictive Maintenance Worth It?
The philosopher Thomas Hobbes said that “Knowledge is Power”.
The philosopher Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”.
What does any of that have to do with getting better results from your fleet’s maintenance program?
Well, when it comes to getting business done and keeping your customers happy—your fleet is the extension of your self that lets you accomplish what you need to get done. The more you know about your fleet, the more power you have to make wise and powerful decisions about maximizing its productivity, efficiency, and profitability.
Run-to-failure maintenance was good enough for the industry for a long time because the tools didn’t exist to make doing something else manageable. Before there was fleet maintenance software, tracking all of the data that it takes to set-up and manage a preventive maintenance routine would have meant adding more staff and space than you could afford to pay for on the savings realized by the program.
Now that we have the software tools to make a PMP easy to set-up and operate, there’s no reason to accept the unpredictability and inefficiency that comes with reactive maintenance. You can get more done for your clients and keep more of the money that you make by tracking information and streamlining operations. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want—right?
If there is more that technology can do for your fleet, it just makes sense to take advantage of it. Predictive analytics can layer onto an existing PMP or align with the process that you are developing, to ensure that fewer things slip through the cracks of your routine maintenance activities. Over time, the data that your fleet generates will lead to better and more powerful predictions about how to get the most out of your fleet.
Choosing the tools and strategies that you use to manage your fleet is one of the most important things that you can do for your team as a fleet manager. Transitioning to a preventive maintenance plan and using predictive analytics might seem like too much work from the perspective of the here and now. But when you consider the benefits that they will have for your fleet over time, the choice is easy.
Moving your fleet to a state-of-the-art maintenance strategy is the best way to equip your drivers and maintenance staff to compete in an industry that is evolving at a rapid pace. Invest in their success by giving them the tools they need to deliver exceptional results. The benefits will have a ripple effect that you’ll see throughout your entire operation.
FleetPal uses cutting-edge technology to bring the same tools and resources that power the giants in the industry to small- and mid-sized fleets. By sharing information and taking care of each other, FleetPal users leverage technology to even the playing field.